Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Federal Legislation: Section 220 in S. 1 - What the Fuck is this?

I just spotted this here on slashdot. According to the article being referred to it sounds like Section 220 in S.1 would be a severe blow to free speech:

"In what sounds like a comedy sketch from Jon Stewart's Daily Show, but isn't, the U. S. Senate would impose criminal penalties, even jail time, on grassroots causes and citizens who criticize Congress.
Section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill currently before the Senate, would require grassroots causes, even bloggers, who communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters, to register and report quarterly to Congress the same as the big K Street lobbyists. Section 220 would amend existing lobbying reporting law by creating the most expansive intrusion on First Amendment rights ever. For the first time in history, critics of Congress will need to register and report with Congress itself.

A quick internet search seems to indicate that this worry is not without merit. Although there seems to be some indication that this section would only apply to "paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying", I still find it very disturbing. Fortunately, many others do to. In fact, there seems to be a very broad array of groups opposing this legislation, from Focus on the Family to the ACLU. There is also legislation in the works that would remove the most threating parts of os Section 220 - an amendment by Senator Robert Bennett (R-Utah). It is interesting to note that Bennett helped block the flag burning amendment proposed last year (which, again would have been a blow to free speech).

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